It’s always nice when you can get a little history lesson in during a car show, and at ZCON Atlanta‘s final event I came across the number 83 Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo. It’s a car I naturally knew was important; I just didn’t realize how important.
The car saw development before I was even born, winning Geoff Brabham a drivers’ championship in 1988. By the time I celebrated my first birthday the GTP ZX-T platform had already won three consecutive manufacturers’ championships (along with more drivers’ titles) in the GTP class of the IMSA GT Championship in America. But by the time I was intelligent enough to understand why race cars are cool, the Nissan GTP wasn’t winning races anymore.
It wasn’t until everyone had the internet in their homes that I first came across the car; just a few photos, nothing too significant. That funny swooping face that turned serious at the back end, I remember comparing the GTP to an arrow. Finally, some years later, I read that the car was making 850hp (and 800 ft-lb of torque, both with a 57mm restrictor) out of the 3.0-liter VG30 power plant. For the first time, a V6 seemed exciting.
Fast forward to 2018 and I was excited to get up close to the car without its bodywork in place at the show. Specifically, I was was interested to see how the engine differed from the VG we find in the production-spec 300ZX.
The massive heat exchanger on the left-hand side of the car certainly didn’t find its way into the production version, although I have read that the prototype racers did indeed use the production blocks and heads.
The closer to the business end of the engine bay you get the more things seem to change. The race setup actually looks a lot more simple than the street car version, something I didn’t expect. I’d also always had it in my head that the car had twin turbochargers, but in reality that big power is accomplished with a single Garrett T04.
In unrestricted trim, it’s said that over 960hp and 760ft-lb is possible to the rear wheels. It seems unbelievable for the late ’80s, but this one turbo was pushing 50psi of boost to keep the VG30ET fed.
Have a listen to a start-up at the show.
The packaging is as intense as you would expect with the tube-frame practically overflowing with little racy odds and ends. At the same time, both the design and the tech here is so simple by today’s standards.
Designed and built from the ground up by Lola Cars International, and later extensively tweaked by Electramotive Engineering (all ultimately for Nissan themselves), the GTP ZX-T serves as evidence of the drastic changes we’ve seen in racing tech in the last 20 years.
As simple as it may be though, the car requires quite a bit of effort just to start. All of the temps needs to be just right before you bother cranking the thing.
I wonder if I’ll look back in 20 years at the 919 and other GTP-style cars and admire their character in the same way I do with this Nissan today in 2018. It just doesn’t seem possible, though.
Complete with BBS mesh wheels measuring a whopping 13-inches wide in the front and 15-inches out back, and all wrapped up in the period-appropriate Goodyear Eagle rubber, every square inch of the car is good to look at.
Full of stunning race-bred details, the GTP ZX-Turbo will always be a high point when it comes to Nissan; it’s the car that earned the brand its first constructor championships, and the car that ended the dominant run of the mighty Porsche 962. A car so successful they called it ‘Elvis,’ which is to say ‘The King.’
As a brand, it’s safe to say that Nissan has lots of high points, and I’ll do my best to visit as many of them as possible from ZCON Atlanta’s last car show.